October 04, 2011 5:35 AM
A 14-year-old Pike County deer hunter told authorities he was attacked by a mountain lion this weekend, using a pocketknife to fend off the attack.
The boy was taken by his father to Illini Community Hospital in Pittsfield, where he was treated, according to Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud.
Jeremiah Dice was bow-hunting on his family’s property when he says a mountain lion crossed his path, according to a KHQA-TV story.
He told the television station that the mountain lion attacked him three times before he was able to injure it with a knife from his pocket. Dice was able to escape and run home with minor injuries thanks to his jacket and hat that protected him from most of the lion’s blows.
“As he landed on me, my head hit the ground and I grabbed him by the throat,” Dice told the Hannibal, Mo., station. “His mouth was open. He was trying to bite me. He used his paw to tear at my jacket and the other at my face.”
McCloud said he was not aware of any other mountain lion reports in Pike County.
Conservation police are investigating the attack.
Mountain lions — also called cougars, panthers, pumas, catamounts and other names — were hunted into extinction in most Eastern and Midwestern states during the 1800s and early 1900s.
The animal's only known habitat since about 1900 has been Western states and southwest Florida, where 50 to 100 panthers survive, according to a 2004 USA Today story.
But the mountain lion is moving east again, expanding its territory for the first time in a century. More than two dozen mountain lions were killed or photographed outside the animal's normal range between 2000 and 2004.
In Illinois, a train killed a male cougar on July 15, 2000, in Randolph County south of St. Louis. It was the state’s first documented wild cougar in more than 135 years and the only confirmed mountain lion east of the Mississippi River, excluding Florida panthers.
The cougar population appears to be growing in the West, and young males are seeking new territory, David Maehr, an authority on mountain lions at the University of Kentucky, said in 2004.
Mountain lions are thriving because deer and elk — the cougar's main prey — have grown in numbers while competing predators — wolves and bears — are struggling. Wildlife management and residential development in Western states have played an important role in creating this cougar-friendly environment.
But, as Westerners know, humans and mountain lions have an uneasy relationship. Mountain lions sometimes wander into residential neighborhoods in California, Colorado and other Western states. They can kill pets, livestock and humans.
The Mountain Lion Foundation says 18 people have been killed by cougars in the past 100 years.
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